Lions FC Complete “Double” Over Disappointing Strikers

May 26, 2018 by

The Brisbane Strikers earned the ire of their football manager, David Large, after going down 1-0 to Lions FC to slump to their second successive NPL Queensland defeat and tumble out of the top four at Perry Park tonight.

A sixty-seventh minute goal from Nathan Reardon settled a contest that seldom lived up to the standard expected of two teams vying for finals places. And it left Large apoplectic with his players’ performance against a Lions team who had played 120 minutes of football in the FFA Cup qualifiers on Wednesday night.

“I’m sure the boys will tell you what I thought about it,” said Large when interviewed after delivering a dressing room dressing down.

“I don’t think Lions were at their best tonight. They looked very tired. I thought that they were happy to try and contain us, and they did that.

“I thought in the first half we were okay. I was expecting us to step up in the second half. We didn’t, and they did. We looked like a team that had played extra time in a cup game, and they didn’t.

“We struggled. For me, it was a poor performance tonight”.

Large was forced to reshuffle his starting formation following last week’s controversial sending off of regular centre half Michael McGowan. Large used defensive midfielder Brock Messenger in McGowan’s position, brought Jack Stevens into the left back spot usually occupied by Hiroki Omori, and pushed Omori forward into the midfield.

While Strikers were seldom stretched defensively by a Lions outfit who forsook their usual pressing game in favour of a more energy-efficient containment game, the other changes didn’t really work. Omori was seldom the threat from midfield that he is when bombing up and down the touchline.

The first half produced cagey football and little anxiety for either goalkeeper – Nathan Archbold for Strikers or Luke Borean for Lions. The best chance fell, rather awkwardly, on the half-hour to Strikers fullback Sam Knight who lunged at the back post to try to direct a header at goal from a cross by skipper Michael Angus, but his connection sent the ball skimming wide of goal.

Winger Trent Clulow also missed a chance for Strikers five minutes before half time when his attempted volley to Knight’s driven cross went wide from just in front.

Meanwhile, the best Lions could muster in their opening forty-five minutes was a twenty-yard speculator from midfielder Mitch Hore that went straight at Archbold, who held it comfortably.

There had been little sign from either team that this was a game both of them desperately needed to win if they were to chase down the leading three teams – Olympic FC, Western Pride or Moreton Bay United.

But Large’s expectation that his team would show the required desire to seize the initiative early in the second half was not realized. Instead the hesitant, slow-paced, measured short passing game they employed in the first half to try to pick their way through a Lions formation massed mostly within ten yards of the half way line continued, with similarly poor results.

After fifteen more minutes of this the visitors began to gain in confidence. Their attacking play gained momentum and, following a Strikers attack that finished with McLean teeing up a shot for Clulow that the winger failed to get hold of with any conviction, Lions threatened when Chris Maher headed a cross from the right straight at Archbold from close range.

Archbold did well to cleanly gather it in, but had no chance shortly afterwards and midway through the second half when Maher delivered another good cross from Lions’ right touchline. Strikers’ defence was unable to effectively head it clear and the ball dropped invitingly for Reardon, who had the relatively simple task of smashing it home on the half-volley from eight yards to open the scoring for the visitors.

Strikers were dealt another blow shortly afterwards when Angus limped off the field, but the home side tried to lift after Large introduced both Rhys Meredith and Ryan Palmer from the bench. Meredith’s pace added a little more thrust to the home team’s efforts, but they were to create no further clear-cut chances.

Instead it was Lions who threated and Archbold was forced to produce a genuinely brilliant save in the seventy-ninth minute to keep his team in the game as Lions again used their right flank to deliver a pinpoint cross for substitute Jheison Macuace – another former Brisbane Striker who had an impact against his old club.

Macuace’s header from close range was a good one – angled downwards and with force – but Archbold somehow flung himself down low and to his right to palm the ball away with a save that, for those who have been around long enough, brought back memories of England goalkeeper Gordon Banks’ scarcely believable effort from Pele in the 1970 World Cup.

But that was perhaps the only pleasurable digression of the ninety minutes for the home team’s supporters, who endured another frustrating eleven minutes or so that included a yellow card issued to Messenger, who was ‘coat-hangered’ to the ground by his unpenalized opponent before being left with no option other than to grab at him as he went past, before referee Paul Elridge mercifully brought proceedings to a close.

The result, combined with others on the night, saw Lions leapfrog Strikers into fourth position while Strikers dropped to fifth, ten points behind league leaders Olympic FC and two points outside of the top four.

Tuesday’s FFA Cup qualifier away to runaway FQPL leaders Peninsula Power now looms as a major test of Strikers’ resilience and ability to regroup.

Should they win that Cup tie they will face Lions again in the final round of Brisbane Zone FFA Cup qualifiers, knowing that they will have to lift their game substantially to turn the tables on a team that has now beaten them twice in NPL football this season.

NPL Queensland Round 15, Perry Park, 26 May, 2018: Brisbane Strikers 0 v Lions FC 1 (Reardon, 67).

Brisbane Strikers: Nathan Archbold (gk), Jack Stevens, Brock Messenger, Greig Hensee, Michael Lee, Michael Angus (c), Jake McLean, Sam Knight, Hiroki Omori, Trent Clulow, Zach Maltby. Subs: Rhys Meredith, Braedon Steel, Ryan Palmer. Coach: David Large

Lions FC: Luke Borean (gk), Matija Simic (c), Tommy Jarrard, Nathan Reardon, Mitchell Hore, Shaun Carlos, Danny Kim, Joshua Brindell-South, Chris Maher, Carter Glockner. Subs: Jheison Macuace, Michael Butters. Coach: Warren Moon

Photo: Mitch Pitman

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